A weakening Tropical Depression Flossie was still plenty strong, announcing its presence on the Valley Isle by flashing lightning and rumbling thunder through East and Central Maui on Monday afternoon through dusk.
Although downgraded to a tropical depression Monday afternoon, Flossie still packed a punch with 35-mph winds and a torrent of rain on the island, causing flooding and road closures and bringing down trees.
Lighting flashed and thunder roared through Central Maui at about 5:45 p.m. After about an hour, the explosions of thunder quieted.
Power went out over parts of Central and East Maui, knocking out traffic signals throughout Kahului and disrupting television signals and Internet service.
There were multiple reports of lightning strikes, but no initial reports of major injuries.
Flossie grabbed the attention of Hawaii residents as it tracked toward the islands
Nicole Lee (from right) and her daughters Caitlyn, 10, and Chloe, 7, are helped by American Red Cross volunteer Mahina Martin on Monday at War Memorial Gym. The family from San Francisco had their flight canceled and sought refuge at the gym. The organization provided refuge at eight locations in Maui County during the tropical depression.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
Police officers direct traffic due to electrical failure Monday night at the intersection of Hana Highway and Dairy Road.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
Maui Electric Co. workers try to fix an electrical line Monday evening off Hana Highway
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
Ladder14 from Wailea responded to a home on Akala Drive that was being flooded Monday evening. Crews arrived to find water flowing about 3 feet high but gradually subsiding to about 6 to 8 inches on the roadway. Neighbors diverted the flood waters away from the house before it had a chance to cause any damage. The build up of green waste in a nearby stream bed caused the stream to clog and divert from its normal path. Public Works responded with heavy equipment to clean up the green waste. Maui Fire Department photo
Mark Wilson sent in this photo of a lightning strike
from Tropical Depression Flossie at Kahului Harbor on Monday.
as a tropical storm with winds at 60 mph over the weekend. After nearing the islands, the system weakened and broke apart and was downgraded to a tropical storm with winds below 39 mph Monday afternoon.
At about 8 p.m. Monday, what was left of Flossie was 90 miles east of Honolulu and tracking over Molokai, said Michael Cantin, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service. It had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.
The storm, whose center never made landfall, was tracking west of the state at about 20 mph, he said. Flossie will be clear of the state by late morning or early afternoon today.
The storm will leave a muggy air mass for a day or two with gusty southerly and southeasterly winds. The trades will return the latter half of the week, he said.
Cantin warned of "a good potential for lots of lightning" for areas that had not yet been touched by Flossie.
Maui experienced reports of several lightning strikes, including a Haiku man who may have been struck by lightning shortly before 7 p.m. Police spokesman Lt. William Juan said that the man was transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center in stable condition.
He said it wasn't clear Monday night whether the man was actually struck by lighting.
There also was a report of a home in Kahului being hit by lightning and leaving a 5-inch-diameter hole in the roof.
A reported lightning strike at about 7:30 p.m. at the only power plant on Molokai took out power for the entire island Monday, said Maui Electric Co. spokeswoman Kau'i Awai-Dickson. Power was restored at 8:25 p.m.
Although he could not confirm the strikes, Cantin said that they were likely "cloud-to-ground lightning strikes." Lightning is an unusual occurrence in Hawaii with an average of 10 days a year with lightning.
Flossie carried a lot of moisture and thunderstorm energy with winds that wrapped around the island in a fashion that created lots of lightning, Cantin said.
The storm that blew through Maui dumped rain at a rate of 3 to 4 inches per hour, he said. The rain was so intense that the Maui Bus system ground to a halt at 6:30 p.m. due to poor visibility for drivers, according to county officials. County spokesman Rod Antone said that the system was planning to make its last bus run at 8:30 p.m.
"It's calmed down a little out there," Antone said.
The southerly winds also wreaked havoc with power throughout the county. Maui Electric reported about 9,700 customers without electricity Monday evening. In addition to Molokai, other areas without power included upper Olinda, Wailuku to Kahakuloa, Spreckelsville to Kuau and Huelo to Hana town, said Awai-Dickson.
For Huelo to Hana, she said, "it looks as if we are not going to get electricity up until tomorrow morning."
"The situation may need repair to power lines," she said.
Earlier, a power outage at about the time of Flossie's
arrival in Kahului took out traffic signals throughout town,
including the Hana and Haleakala highway and Dairy Road and Hana Highway intersections. There also was no electricity in the areas of Kahului Shopping Center, Queen Ka'ahumanu Center and the Maui Mall.
There also was a brief power outage in Kihei and Waliea that affected about 2,000 customers Monday morning, MECO said. It lasted nine minutes when a gust of wind brought two lines together to cause a short circuit.
Because power outages affected the county water system, customers of Central and South Maui, Upcountry, Hana and Molokai were being asked to conserve water until further notice, Antone said Monday evening.
"Even though we prepared for something like this by filling every single water tank on Maui, if those tanks empty, without power there's no way to fill them," he said.
He added that the Lahaina and Lanai water systems weren't affected.
The storm's rain and wind brought flooding throughout the island and downed power poles and trees that blocked roads. Hana Highway was closed between Mileposts 25 and 29 in Hana due to a downed telephone pole and tree, Juan said.
Power poles also were reported down in Paia that blocked Baldwin Avenue from the old Paia Mill to Puakou Place, Juan said.
Although forecasters said Maui could see 1 to 2 inches of rain, which was way less than the 6 to 10 inches initially projected Sunday, Hana residents reported heavy rain, thunder and wind after 4 p.m. Monday. Several residents took it in stride.
"To us, it's kind of normal to see something like this," Harolen Kaiwi, Hana Ranch Store general manager and lifelong Hana resident, said Monday afternoon. "A few tree branches fell, but they were kind of old already."
Always ready for bad storms, many households and businesses in Hana, like Hana Ranch Store, had a backup generator.
"We are always ready because the power goes out in Hana so much already," Council Member Bob Carroll, who lives in Hana, said. "We always have extra batteries, propane for the stove, canned goods . . . everything we need."
He added that until the thunder and lightning started around 5 p.m., it was "a pretty nice day" by Hana standards, seeing only intermittent light rain.
The county opened shelters Monday throughout the county.
There were about 15 people in one of the shelters at War Memorial Gym, with half of them being tourists whose flights were canceled.
Robin Woronko and his family of four from Vancouver, Canada, were on Maui for a little more than a week. They were scheduled to fly out at 1 p.m. Monday when their Alaska Airlines flight was canceled.
"A couple of days ago I heard the storm was coming, but I didn't think it was that serious," he said. "Then I noticed everyone buying water at the stores and I said, 'This can't be true.' ''
Woronko said his family checked out of their Kihei condominium Monday morning and returned their rental car before finding out the news at Kahului Airport.
"We had the rental car the whole day, but thought we were flying," he said. "The airport referred us to the gym for shelter because we didn't know where else to go, really."
The family was able to reschedule their flight to 9 p.m. and were set to fly to Portland, Ore., for a layover before returning to Canada.
"(It's) ending well," he said from the airport Monday night. "We now have a good story to tell."
Yong Lee, who brought his family of three to Maui, was looking forward to flying home to San Francisco, when their Alaska Airlines flight was canceled.
"We were supposed to fly out at 12:55 p.m. but found out it was canceled," he said, adding that they rescheduled their flight for 8 p.m. "I'm glad we have these volunteers to help us because we would be stranded."
Alaska Airlines had canceled five of its seven flights into Kahului Airport, but the airline was planning to bring in four additional flights after 8 p.m. Monday, Maui District Airports Manager Mavin Moniz said.
He reported all Maui County airports open, though several airlines had canceled or rescheduled flights.
United Airlines had canceled four flights and West Jet and American Airlines had canceled one flight each into Maui.
Delta Airlines did not cancel any flights.
None of the major interisland carriers - Hawaiian, Island Air and go!- had canceled their flights, he said Monday afternoon.
The Maui airports had been making preparations for Flossie. Fuel and generators were ready in case of a power outage, and airport restaurants were stocked with extra food in case passengers were stuck at the airports for long periods of time, Moniz said.
Over the weekend, state crews cleaned up the drainage systems around the airport, and security was added, he said.
Capt. Shannon Gilreath, the Coast Guard captain of the port, closed the ports of Kahului as well as Hilo and Kawaihae on the Big Island to all traffic starting midnight Sunday. All cargo operations in these ports were to be secured by 6 a.m. Monday, a Coast Guard news release Sunday evening said.
Gilreath reopened the Big Isle ports Monday afternoon.
The Pride of America cruise ship, which was scheduled to leave Monday evening, left Kahului Harbor at 11 p.m. Sunday due to the storm, said Maui Harbors District Manager Duane Kim.
A sand barge, which was scheduled to come into the harbor Monday morning, was canceled by the company Sunday.
Interisland shipper Young Brothers' operations were open for pickup and dropoff of cargo Monday morning but the port was closed to barges. In Kaunakakai, Young Brothers barge Kamaluhia departed for Honolulu at 9:45 a.m.
"All harbor operations and Young Brothers port operations are subject to change based on the weather conditions and directions given to us by the Coast Guard and the Department of Transportation," a news release Monday from Young Brothers said.
Updated information will be posted on Young Brothers website, www.youngbrothershawaii.com.
Kim said Monday afternoon that he did not know when Kahului Harbor will reopen.
"That we don't know, it's up to the captain of the port with the U.S .Coast Guard," he said. "They'll do an assessment tonight or tomorrow morning. Once they close the port it doesn't open until they say it's open."
The Molokai Princess Ferry between Lahaina Harbor and Molokai and the Expeditions Maui-Lanai Ferry between Lahaina and Lanai were not operating Monday.
"I canceled so many (reservations) I really don't know (the number)," said P.J. Laspra of the Molokai Princess. "I think that's all I did yesterday. We hope to resume tomorrow, but that depends on Flossie. We'll leave it up to her."
Maalaea Harbor was filled with charter boats and private vessels Monday because the few boaters there said they were ordered by the Coast Guard to stay put in the harbor. The normally busy harbor was pretty much at a standstill other than tourists snapping photos of the high surf and some residents taking advantage of the swells.
Marc Minkler, who operates the 53-foot-long charter boat Lani Kai for a private owner, said he had 16 lines securing the boat compared to a normal six to seven lines during nonstorm events.
"It's like a spider sitting in a spider web," he said of the boat as it swayed back and forth with the current Monday morning.
Minkler said the boat had been secured Sunday, but he had come back down Monday morning to check on his vessel. The Piiholo resident said he was planning to come back down to the harbor Monday night.
While the surf spilled over one of the walls at the harbor, sending a flow of water through the parking lot, Minkler said the surf wasn't too high but a little higher than normal.
Joseph White, a crew member for the charter bottom fishing, trolling and snorkeling boat Hokua, also was making sure the company boat and a friend's boat nearby were both secured.
In between a drizzle of rain, White was making sure anchors were dropped from both boats and ropes were secure.
"Not sure what to expect yet," the Kihei resident said Monday morning while the alert was still on.
He said most boaters came down Sunday to secure their vessels. He said he understood that at least charter boats were restricted by the Coast Guard to not depart or return to Maalaea Harbor on Monday and today.
The surf threat favoring the eastern shores peaked early Monday afternoon, Cantin said. The Big Island was seeing surf of 16 feet, Maui was expected to see surf of 12 to 18 feet.
A Pacific Hurricane Center report at 11 a.m. said that Flossie's center had been exposed by wind shear, which usually weakens a system in the islands. The storm was further weakened by interaction with mountains on Maui and the Big Island.
The storm ran into the shear that generally cuts down most storm systems that reach Hawaii, said Cantin. Once in Hawaiian waters, "shear can do a number real quickly" on the system, he said. In fact, Flossie had broken into two parts Sunday with two centers.
Earlier in the day, Tom Evans, acting director of the hurricane center, said that Maui was in for a "more direct hit" for the center of the stronger of the two storm centers. The storm's center had taken a northern track, which put Maui in the predicted path of the storm.
A flash flood watch remained in effect Monday night.
County offices, public libraries and the University of Hawaii Maui College closed Monday due to the storm.
County and state parks and state trails and forests also were shut down.
Haleakala National Park was evacuated Monday morning and will reopen Thursday, park officials said.
Automated trash collection continued as scheduled Monday.
Some businesses reported their stores "a little busier than normal" over the weekend, but overall nothing too extreme.
"We were a little bit busier on Sunday, but people knew about it (Flossie) for a while," Paul Hanada, owner of Aloha and Ilima Shell stations in Kahului, said Monday. "For an earthquake or a tsunami, you don't have a lot of time to prepare, but (having) that longer lead time doesn't create that panic."
Hanada said the gas station at Costco saw a bigger impact Sunday, most likely due to its cheaper gas prices. Whereas prices at Hanada's shell stations averaged $4.56 per gallon for regular unleaded gas, Costco charged only $4.19 per gallon.
Sundays at Costco are notoriously busy, but wait times at the pumps Sunday extended up to seven cars deep at times.
"Storm-related items" like water, toilet paper, batteries and electric generators were in high demand Sunday, though the large warehouse was still "in good supply" of all the necessities, according to Assistant Store Manager Tim Kennedy on Monday.
The same emergency preparedness items, plus flashlights and lanterns, flew off the shelves Sunday at the Marmac Ace Hardware in Kahului, said owner Bill Marrs.
"Yesterday was a big rush . . . about 400 to 500 people came through our store," Marrs said. "We usually close early on Sundays but yesterday we stayed open until the last customer (left)."
Hasegawa General Store in Hana was reportedly low on produce, milk and bread because truckers did not want to risk the drive to and from Central Maui to pick up new shipments amid storm warnings, General Manager Neil Hasegawa said.
He said the truckers will make the drive and delivery today.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.